Occupying the committee room and the halls of Congress while donning green T-shirts and hard hats, young people are on Capitol Hill this week to join hearings on energy and climate change reform.
But these youth aren't just listening idly while their Representatives debate their future.
Instead, these savvy Millennial leaders are using new tools like Twitter to amplify their support of bold climate legislation to their peers and elected officials across the country.
Particularly offensive to the youth is the amount of money and manpower the Carbon lobby has thrown at the debate. So the young are pushing back against the money and power of dirty energy in the way of their generation.
Says online organizer Danny Marx of the Power Shift '09 campaign, "The oil and coal lobbies are spending millions to fight this proposed climate legislation and they are hiring thousands of lobbyists to phone in their support. Our generation might not have a lot of money yet, but we've got the energy of thousands of young people on our side, and we're using every tool at our disposal to make our voice heard. Web technologies like Twitter, Facebook, or Flickr are leveling our playing field like never before."
The students on the Hill, mostly from D.C.-area colleges, are attending the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearings on the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act - which includes a cap and trade system for carbon emissions and would fund investments in alternative energy - throughout the week. They launched a flurry of Twitter messages and a national "hashtag" conversation to raise awareness of the sub-committee deliberations, and collected photo petitions from hundreds across the US through Flickr and the strategic use of their email list.
"We're tweeting, texting and calling our national network of young people because they want to know what's going on in Washington, D.C.," said Kim Teplitzky, Field Director of the Sierra Student Coalition, an Energy Action Coalition partner. "Using these new media tools allows us to stay up-to-date and respond quickly, ensuring our representatives know that we want major investments in clean energy and green jobs, not giveaways for polluters."
At the end of the day, the use of social media to project the youth's message still has an old school ask: generate as many phone calls as possible into the offices of elected officials.
And it's working.
• Students in Washington, D.C. are calling their peers in the home districts of Energy and Commerce Committee members during the hearings to share updates from the halls of Congress. They are also dropping off photo petitions to committee members' offices.
• In Utah, students are hosting a massive call-in day today in response to statements made by Rep. Matheson, telling the Congressman they want investments in clean, renewable energy not giveaways to the dirty energy industry.
• In Bloomington, Indiana young people are collecting petitions and making calls to ask Rep. Baron Hill to demand support for a clean energy economy.
• At both the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, students are organizing calls to applaud Rep. Mike Doyle's support of the bill and encourage him to strengthen investments in renewable energy that will bring green jobs to the state.
"Our elected officials are debating the language that will shape our future. For us, there is no debate. We need a bold climate bill; we need it now, and we need as many voices from our generation to be heard," remarked Power Shift Field Director, Josh Tulkin. "The young people of this country are the ones who will pay for the mistakes of the past, and it's time we get this right."
Behind the scenes, the work to support ACES on the Hill this week is facilitated through the Power Shift '09 campaign led by the Energy Action Coalition - a network of over 50 organizations such as the Sierra Student Coalition that work with young people demanding a clean energy economy.
Anticipating a fight to pass a climate bill in the House and Senate that will span the next several months, Power Shift '09 executive director Jessy Tolkan added, "you ain't seen nothing yet!"
Follow Jake Brewer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jakebrewer